Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alfred Lessing - January 26, 1993

His Parents

Before we return to Tilburg, let's see the photographs of your parents, we forgot to show earlier.

Oh, okay. Well, I just kind of on impulse brought these two particular pictures, of course, be many to pick from, especially in more recent years, um, this is a picture of my father at um, probably age 17 or so, he was a cellist, and I just love this old photograph, um, you, it does show his um, what in those days was called Semitic Jewish nose and I inherited a large nose from him, uh, other than that, I think it is a very handsome picture and...

He was a professional musician?

He was a professional musician, yes, all his life, while he was alive. Although he did a other things at the time that the war started he was running a little clothing store in Delft, um, which by the way I remembered the invasion, I remember piling up clothes from the clothing store on the tables and hiding under the tables as some kind of protection against uh, shrapnel from the bombing. But mostly, primarily he was a musician before and after the war. He was also an artist, during the war he became a painter, he had a very difficult time tolerating the inactivity and um, found his sanity in painting and kept that as an avocation the rest of his life. And sometimes said that he would have preferred being a painter to being a musician. But it might have been even harder to earn a living that way. The picture of my mother is related to the war years, this has only recently come to light, my brother sent me this copy of the original, um, this is a picture of her, apparently taken, in Westerbork. On the back of it, it says, "voor mijn grote zoon," which means "for my big son." Which must mean she sent it to Ed, that's why he's keeping the original, [laughs] he says, it's mine. Uh, and it is dated, uh, 11/6/44 (European style meaning June 11, 1944). Now my mother was caught by the Germans on May 9, 1944. So, it means that at this point, she has already been in Westerbork for a long time, unless this picture was taken was taken in Belsen, unless she was already in Belsen, I don't know, at least off hand, the date of when she went to Bergen Belsen. Anyway, this picture, she, we, was somehow sent to us and we had this that last year of the war, when we were in the cottage in the country together, we had this picture and I am the only one who remembers that we said a little prayer, as I have said before we are not a religious family, but that year before eating, we said a little prayer for my mother" and that picture is associated with that for me. It's very, to me it is very beautiful picture, she looks very beautiful and yet very vulnerable already um, like somebody who is trying to look uplifting and courageous to her son, but it is as though I can already see the pain, the effects of imprisonment. So those are my parents, maybe I should also at this point, show something which I keep... at the very beginning of this book, um, which is this Jewish star, let me tilt it a little, which I have mounted in this book, this is the real thing, you can see the stitching, the dotted line is where you were supposed to stitch it and on this particular one, you can see little bits of stitching hanging cause this was actually worn by one of us, I don't know if it was me or my mother, my mother saved this, this is the real thing. Um, maybe those are the most important pictures for the moment, anyway.

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